Monday, June 11, 2012

Things Get Worse in Syria

First, two news items that show the nature of the "Free Syrian Army" and the lengths they go to manipulate the western press, followed by a few articles about the worsening situation for Christians in Syria.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung now reports that the massacre in Houla was in fact perpetrated by Sunni rebels against a family in the village who had converted to Shi'ism. German article here. Google translate here:

According to the eyewitnesses, the massacre occurred during this period. Almost exclusively families from the Alawite and Shi'ite minority were killed in Hula, which is more than ninety percent Sunni. Thus, several dozen members of one family who had converted from Sunnism to Shi'i Islam were slaughtered. Members of the Alawite Shomaliya family were also killed, as well as the family of a Sunni member of parliament, because he was considered a collaborator.  Immediately after the massacre, the perpetrators filmed their victims, portrayed them as Sunnis, and spread the videos over the internet. 

In the Guardian, here, a journalist for British Channel 4 TV tells the story of how his team was led by Syrian rebels into a dangerous situation, so that their deaths could be blamed on the regime.

Alex Thomson alleged a small group from the Free Syrian Army deliberately guided the vehicle in which he and his Channel 4 News colleagues were travelling into what he described as a "free-fire zone" on a blocked road near the city of al-Qusayr, because "dead journos are bad for Damascus".

Further expulsions of Christians are occurring in the Homs region, this time in the town of Qusayr, as reported by Agenzia Fides, the Vatican news agency here.

Exodus of Christians in the west of Syria: the Christian population has left the town of Qusayr, near Homs, following an ultimatum from the military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba. This is what local sources of Fides report, indicating that, following the outbreak of the conflict, out of the ten thousand faithful who lived in the town, only a thousand have remained, who have now been forced to flee in haste to fury. Some mosques in the city have re-launched the message, announcing from the minarets: "Christians must leave Qusayr within six days, which expires this Friday."

 Also from Agenzia Fides:

"The desolation of Homs and the war of information ": the words of a greek-catholic Bishop
 The picture for us – he continues - is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All Christians (138,000) have fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the surrounding countryside. A priest was killed and another was wounded by three bullets.

Christians kidnapped: after Houla, they are possible target for revenge
A [Syrian Greek-]Catholic family, who arrived in Lebanon from Qusayr, told Fides that he left the village because of fighting between the army and rebels, but especially for the plague of kidnappings: Many Christians are picked up by masked men, some with a local accent, others no. The kidnappers ask for huge ransoms. One of their Christian relatives - tell the refugees – was killed, kidnapped and tortured because  [they were] "non-aligned with the revolutionaries."

Finally, a report from a Christian living in Wadi al-Nasara, posted to Joshua Landis' Syria Comment here

Over 40 young men (including a couple of doctors) from the Wadi area, we’re killed by the bearded men who are eager to give us democracy. In a few of these killing, they decapitated the bodies and severed limbs. In one occasion, they gave the body back to the family but kept the head and put it on top of a hill. They stood about a couple hundred feet and challenged anyone to come pick it up. Finally a guy drove his pickup truck in high speed and picked up the head under fire.

Here is another one: at one point, Crac de Chevaliers became a multinational hub of Afghani, Libyans and Lebanese bearded men. The Afghanis were actually non-threatening. But the two Arab groups had an argument as to which sheikh should rule the castle. There was a Libyan sheikh and a Lebanese one. A fire fight erupted, and a few martyrs died. Now the castle was finally cleaned up by the army. It turned out that the Lebanese sheikh was actually wanted in Lebanon for commuting several murders. He was caught alive. 

… This is the sad truth. The good news is that the security situation is steadily improving. The hope is that the refugees will return to their homes and start the rebuilding process…..
Most of them settled in Tartous, Latakia, Aleppo or Damascus. My sister made new friends from Homs, who only had their clothes and left everything behind. A few who are well to do rented shops and started their businesses (or clinics) there.

Another story:  my first cousin’s sister in law fled her house in bustan al deewan because of daily harassment by the militants from Baba Amr and al-khalideeah. A few weeks after she left, she called her own home number. A guy answers the phone. She asked who he is. He gave a name. She asked “what are you doing here”.  He said he lives there. She told him “but this is my house”.  He said “the priest of the local church gave it to me”.

The militants constantly drive through the area, and either fire shots in the air, or show their weapons. They have essentially settled in the empty houses. They only leave when the government forces kick them out, only to return later when the cat is away from the rat.
Churches are demolished inside. Anything of value is stolen. Things of little value are thrown on the street and destroyed.

A distant relative of mine (in his seventies) was shot in his leg. When his family tried to take him to a hospital, the long-bearded men didn’t allow them to touch him. He bled to death. He was from marmarita living in Homs.

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